professionalism and twitter

dreamstime_xs_34965828Twitter is a fantastic medium to connect with, learn from, and share ideas with other healthcare professionals and the public, and increasing numbers of healthcare professionals are using twitter for work. It important to maintain professionalism when using twitter and we hope lots of the physiotherapy community will get involved in physiotalk, so it is important that everyone taking part feels confident in using twitter in a professional capacity.

There are some hard and fast rules when using social media for work, and there are areas that need some thinking about according to your own aims and preferences, and situation.  The following suggestions are not a definitive guide but will hopefully help you think about professionalism when you use Twitter and when joining in a #physiotalk discussion.

Physiotalk has a number of international followers so this has been written with the international physiotherapy community in mind, but many examples are of UK guidance so let us know if we can highlight other useful resources.

Guidance on using social media

Any physiotherapist, physiotherapy student or support worker should be familiar with professional guidance when using social media for work and play:

There is lots of useful information in the CSP’s social media guidance but this is only available to members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, so it is also useful to refer to the Royal College of General Practitioners: Social media highway code. We have not repeated the information found in these, but hopefully given some practical considerations when using twitter professionally and when taking part in #physiotalk tweet chats. We will also continue to add resources on using social media to our useful info page.

This tweet from @theRCOT is a useful tip to think about when tweeting in whatever capacity – work or socially: “If you don’t say anything on social media that you wouldn’t want your boss or grandma to hear you say, you’ll be fine”

How you are going to use twitter?

When you are setting up a new twitter account, or as your use of twitter develops, think about whether you are using it for work or play, or both, and the level of privacy you want (see next section), as this might influence some of your choices for profile and account settings.

Remember -if you are taking part in a tweet chat, and tweeting using the hashtag #physiotalk, you are using your twitter account in a professional capacity.

Some aspects to think about are:

  • Your choice of name, username (@name) and photo in relation to how easy you want it to be for other people to find you through twitter and search engines such as Google
  • Whether you choose to have two separate accounts, with one specifically for ‘work’.  This isn’t a necessity and many healthcare professionals on twitter combine professional and personal use very successfully, but this may depend on who you work for, connect with and the content of your tweets.
  • Your ‘bio’ information – for example whether to include your role and workplace
  • Your profile photo and any photos you tweet – do they give professional impression?
  • Whether you protect your tweets – see privacy and Twitter below
  • Whether you link your twitter account with other social media accounts, such as Facebook
  • How would you respond to patients approaching you through twitter, e.g. by mentioning you in a tweet?

Privacy and twitter

The CSP guidance recommends the following in the context of setting professional boundaries:

 ‘Set any social media personal account privacy settings high to ensure you have protected yourself against inappropriate advances from patients/clients’. 

Privacy settings for twitter work differently to Facebook: you ‘follow’ and have ‘followers’ rather than sending and receiving ‘friend’ requests. This can all sound quite complicated, and you do get the hang of it quite quickly when using twitter, but it is important to be be aware that twitter is very much in the public domain unless you protect your tweets.

The default setting for twitter is for your tweets to be public. This means anyone can choose to follow you without your ‘approval’ (see below) and anyone can see your tweets, or the tweets you are mentioned in, and add you to twitter lists, regardless of whether or not they follow you.  Anyone on twitter can also mention you using your username (see here for more information).  These tweets will show up in your mentions/notifications, can be viewed by that person’s followers, and will also show up if someone searches twitter for you. If you have a public twitter profile your profile details, including profile photo, and tweets, may also show up if your name is entered into a search engine such as Google.

Direct messages (private messages) work differently to tweets and mentions. You can only receive direct messages  if you follow that person, and you can only send direct messages to someone who follows you.  Just be careful that you don’t accidentally tweet what you intended to be a direct message.

You can protect your tweets and if you do this you are able to approve each of your followers, and only your approved followers can see your tweets. There are advantages and disadvantages to protecting your twitter account depending on how you use twitter, and you should think about this carefully. There are huge numbers of healthcare professionals using twitter who do not protect their tweets and therefore tweet in the public domain.  Protecting your account can limit your ability to network, learn and engage in discussion on twitter, and can also discourage people from following you.  Protecting your tweets will also limit your ability to take part in #physiotalk tweet chats.

You might therefore think about protecting your privacy in twitter in other ways, for example in your choice of name and username, the information you include in your bio, or in having a separate work and personal account. Some people chose to protect their account whilst learning to use twitter and then remove this once feeling more confident. Whether you protect your account or not you should still be familiar with professional guidance, such as the HCPC and CSP social media guidance.

Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer for some of these choices as it will depend on how you aim to use twitter, your own preferences and confidence using social media and the policies of your university or workplace.

Think before you tweet

ThinkAgain, this section does not repeat formal guidance so is really just to highlight that any social media has the possibility of being seen by others – whatever your privacy settings, so you should maintain professionalism at all times and think before you tweet.  The ‘Stop and think’ social media checklist from the CSP is useful to consider when taking part in #physiotalk discussions. Thanks to @MadeMD_ for this image:

Your digital footprint

A quick search of your name on an internet search engine will give you an idea of your ‘digital footprint’,  and it is worth checking and reflecting on whether this digital footprint portrays you to patients, the public, colleagues and future employers in the way that you want it to.

But, and this is important, don’t let any of this put you off – there are so many advantages to social media and so much to learn using twitter, and lots of people who can help you if this is all new or if you are not sure of the answers.

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